Scattered throughout Catholic University’s Special Collections are a range of resources related to the history of Mexico. We are happy to offer a new Library Guide to those materials. Here are a few of the highlights:
The National Catholic Welfare Conference, forerunner of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, became involved in U.S.-Mexican affairs just after its founding in the early 1920s. Mexico-related records can be found throughout this enormous collection, partly due to the migration of Mexican Catholics into the U.S. at the time, but also because the bishops were concerned with the unstable political conditions in that country leading to persecution of Catholics in the 1920s. The archives, which holds the NCWC/USCCB records, contains a series of records known as the “Mexican Files,” Subseries 1.4, of the NCWC/USCCB Office of the General Secretary, which document the precarious position of the church in Mexico and attempts by U.S. Catholic authorities to stabilize such conditions. The Office of the General Secretary files also contain various materials throughout related to Mexican relations and migration which one can find by doing a simple search of the finding aid.
Established in 1920, the NCWC Press Department provided the Catholic press, radio, and eventually, television in the United States and other countries with news, editorial, feature, and picture services gathered and prepared by professional journalists and released under the names NCWC News Service and Noticias Catolicas (in Spanish and Portuguese for Latin America). Both services were designated by the abbreviation (NC) and the former later known as the Catholic New Service (CNS). Administrative files include correspondence, general subscriber files, obituary files for prominent Catholics, and miscellaneous publications and press releases. The NCWC/CNS finding aid can be found here.
Included are digital copies of the Catholic News Service Press releases, La Esperanza of Los Angeles (ca. 1929-1954), The Monitor of San Francisco, and several other publications publishing Mexico-related articles.
Agustín Iturbide y Green (1863-1925), grandson of Emperor Agustín Iturbide I (1783-1824), was born in Mexico City during the French occupation of the country in 1863. Desiring a Mexican heir, Emperor Maximilian I, an Austrian by birth, arranged to adopt the younger Iturbide, then two years old, in 1865. Following the collapse of Maximilian’s regime in 1867, young Agustín was reunited with his birth parents in Havana, and resided with his mother in the United States until 1875 before leaving to study in Brussels. Agustín remained in Europe for many years before returning once again to attend graduate school in Washington, D.C. He was awarded a master’s degree in Linguistics from Georgetown University in 1884.
Iturbide returned to Mexico in 1887 to enter the Military Academy in Chapultepec. Although he had aspirations for a storied military career, his criticisms of the Porfirio Díaz regime in both a New York newspaper and in personal correspondence resulted in his being court-martialed in 1890. Convicted of insubordination, he was sentenced to one year in prison and was subsequently exiled.
Financially ruined and grieving for his mother, who passed away during attempts to salvage the family fortune, Iturbide moved to Rosedale to teach Spanish and French at Georgetown University. It was there, that he met Louise Kearney, who would become his wife in 1915. The Kearneys were a prominent Washington family whose ancestors had emigrated from Ireland in the late 1700s.
Iturbide continued to teach until his death from tuberculosis in 1925. Louise Kearney lived the rest of her life in a small P Street apartment and became friends with Catholic University procurator Msgr. James Magner, to whom she entrusted this collection in 1957.
This collection contains original documents from the Iturbide family from Emperor Agustin Iturbide I’s reign until the death of his grandson, Agustín Iturbide y Green, including correspondence, Mexican governmental documents, military medals and coins, newspapers, magazines, and portraits. The Kearney section contains correspondence and portraits from Louise Kearney, Iturbide’s wife from 1915 until his death.
Note that this collection is digitized and all of the links to the digitized documents are in the finding aid.
A link to the Iturbide-Kearney papers’ finding aid can be found here.
The National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) was established in 1920 as an initiative of the Lay Organizations Department of the NCWC. One to three women represented each of the 114 dioceses of the time. As the first federation of Catholic women’s organizations, the NCCW was able to provide a unified voice for the thousands of independent Catholic women’s organizations that existed in the United States, to offer resources for united actions, to ensure official Catholic representation in national movements, and to stimulate the local efforts of the women’s organizations.
The NCCW records span 1917-2000 and consist of administrative records and minutes, correspondence, national and international project notes, publications, photographs, and scrapbooks. While there are over 200 boxes of records in this collection, one can do a search for Mexico-related materials; specifically, series 7 (International Organization Affiliations, 1919-1984), boxes 111-142 (especially 115-116) contain materials related to the NCCW’s involvement with international organizations. A link to the NCCW finding aid can be found here.
A selected list of texts from our Rare Books collection related to the history of Mexico can be found here.
A full list of Mexico-related resources from Special Collections can be found in this Mexico-related Library Guide.
As the United States Catholic population boomed between 1890 and 1920, national Catholic institutions evolved to address their needs. A key player in these developments was the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Initially established in 1917 to coordinate Catholic activities related to the First World War, the National Catholic War Council evolved into the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC), the forerunner of today’s U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). At the heart of the story of the USCCB’s formation is a tale of how a hierarchical institution like the Catholic Church adapts itself to thrive in a pluralistic and democratic society. The archives holds the records of the USCCB, which clock in at over 1000 boxes of archival materials!
When the United States entered World War One in 1917, authorities called for volunteer participation by private individuals and organizations to support the war effort.
Among these volunteers was the Catholic Church, which was broadly perceived as an immigrant body whose patriotism was suspect and whose members were untested in their loyalties, at least from the non-Catholic perspective.
Responding to this challenge under the motto of “For God and Country,” American Catholics led by the Paulist Father John J. Burke created the National Catholic War Council in 1917. Father Burke (1875-1936) was the heart and soul of the newly emerging bishops organization. He saw a fundamental compatibility between the principles the U.S. was founded upon, and those of the Catholic Church. He believed that the principles of the Constitution would lead to Catholic truth if they were fully followed.
The War Council represented the first coming together of the American bishops in voluntary association to address great national issues affecting the Church. Burke would head the Council’s Committee on Special War Activities, which oversaw mobilization of lay men and women in the war. The War Council worked particularly with the Knights of Columbus to provide education and recreation to Catholic men serving in the war. Also, the Council set up Catholic settlement houses in cities across the country to improve the civic education of immigrants and urged every diocese and Catholic organization to set up their own “Americanization” programs.
Many in the American Hierarchy soon realized with Father Burke that this united and coordinated effort in wartime might be reorganized for use in promoting Church interests in peacetime. This resulted in the creation in 1919 of the National Catholic Welfare Council, which involved itself at the federal, state, and local levels of Catholic activity regarding legislation, education, publicity, and social action.
Monsignor William Kerby, a professor of sociology at Catholic University, was a huge advocate of the Catholic need to establish organizations parallel to those Protestant. He worried about “leakage” of professionals and intellectuals from the church into secular or Protestant society. He noted that America was a pluralistic society that offered a host of organizations competing for allegiances, but an indifference to religion might develop within such organizations. Establishing specifically Catholic versions would counter the development of this indifference, in Kerby’s view.
In 1919, the bishops met as an assembly to discuss the creation of a National Catholic Welfare Council. This was representative of the whole of the Catholic bishops. But not all bishops were on board, as they thought it might interfere with their diocesan prerogatives.
At that time, they established an administrative committee of 7 bishops, later expanded to 10, elected annually. The committee met periodically through the year, and operated a 5 branch Secretariat.
This Secretariat was initially run by Father Burke, who served as the General Secretary. Its functions were to oversee:
* An Immigration Bureau and Motion Picture Bureau to offer technical assistance to immigrants at ports of entry, and promote decency in the movie industry.
* A Social Action Department. This promoted Catholic views of civic education, industrial relations, and rural welfare through publications and speakers.
* A Department of Education that informed the public on Catholic education and dealt with educational matters, which were actually in ferment at the time, as there were many attempts to abolish parochial schools.
* A Legal Department to study state and federal legislation with a view to either removing anti-Catholic aspects, or making the Catholic position known.
* A Press Department provided subscribing newspapers, such as Catholic diocesan newspapers with a weekly set of articles covering national and international events from the Catholic angle.
* The Department of Lay Activities organized Catholic people across the country into the National Conference of Catholic Women (NCCW) and National Conference of Catholic Men (NCCM).
At this point, however, there was a problem with the emerging organization that illustrates its uniqueness. One of the members of the hierarchy, Cardinal William O’Connell of Boston, did not like this new organization. He and several bishops feared that it would impinge on their local authority. Though O’Connell temporarily stalled the evolution of the organization, by 1922 a clarification in the name entailing a shift from the word “council” to “conference” satisfied the authorities involved, and the name was changed to the National Catholic Welfare Conference. The organization had another name change and reorganization in the 1960s, and as of 2001, it has been known as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
From 1922 through to the 1960s, this organization addressed a range of matters related to American Catholic life. A few examples of their influential work:
Catholic Social Justice. Just after the war, the Bishops’ Conference issued the Bishops Program for Social Reconstruction (1919). This was a plan for social reform written by Father John A. Ryan, a professor of Sacred Theology at Catholic University. Combining Progressive thought and Catholic theology, Ryan believed that government intervention was the most effective means of affecting positive change for his church as well as working people and the poor. The program advocated minimum wage legislation, the elimination of child labor, state-run insurance for the sick, unemployed, and elderly, and housing for returning veterans, among other things. Labeled “socialistic” by its critics in the 1920s, much of the Program was implemented during the New Deal years.
Monsignor Ryan himself was appointed the head of the NCWC’s Department of Social Action (or SAD). This department employed staff to travel the country and educate Americans on how Catholic social teaching spoke to industrial matters, living wage issues, and other economic and social issues. The Social Action Department became a kind of national Catholic information clearing house on matters of Catholic social justice as applied to American life.
Catholic Education. You may or may not know that the 1920s saw a national upswing in anti-Catholic activity. The KKK, for example, had millions of members and, in addition to being anti-Black, they focused their hate on Catholics and Jews. The KKK and other groups of anti-Catholics sought to abolish Catholic parochial schools in many states. The Education Department raised funds, hired lawyers, and mediated such cases successfully in the 1920s, ensuring that parochial schools could exist.
Immigration and Americanization. As you might imagine, the church was very interested in the immigrant population. By 1920, there were about 20 million Catholics in a total U.S. population of just over 106 million. Many of these were immigrants and the children of immigrants–over 3.5 million Catholics migrated to the United States between 1900 and 1920. Catholic immigrants created communities that differed considerably from the established Anglo-Protestant pattern. Few spoke English, and many were impoverished working-class laborers. Immigrants tended to congregate in urban areas with others from their country of origin, creating ethnic neighborhoods in the cities. These neighborhoods were shunned by the Protestant majority, who viewed them as breeding grounds for illiteracy, disease, immorality, and un-Americanism. The Catholicism practiced in these ethnic communities also drew suspicion, as it looked very different from the practices established by earlier Catholic settlers in the U.S. These immigrant Catholics focused on creating vibrant parish networks built around ethnic group identification.
Priests and religious orders were brought from European countries to minister to the new parishes. As these ethnic communities grew, churches, schools, charitable organizations, newspapers, hospitals, and other institutions sprouted around them. For example, in 1880, there were 2,246 parochial elementary schools with 405,234 students in the U.S.; by 1910 there were 4,845 parochial elementary schools and 1,237,251 students. A Department of Immigration was soon established to address issues related directly to immigration as well.
Media and popular culture. The NCWC established a Press Department specifically devoted to Catholic information.
Established in 1920, the National Catholic Welfare Council (NCWC) Press Department provided the Catholic press, radio, and eventually television in the United States and other countries with news, editorial, features, and picture services prepared by professional journalists and released under the names NCWC News Service. Most dioceses had their own newspapers, focused on local Catholic affairs. But the NCWC Press Department covered issues of national significance, which the local papers ran as subscribers. This meant that Catholics could tell their own stories about themselves, rather than simply absorbing a Protestant dominated narrative. Hence, this organization helps generate a national Catholic and American identity.
The national idea is crucial here. There was no national and Catholic institution in existence that covered so many different facets of American life, prior to the establishment of the NCWC. And its creation was a product of the church’s adaptation to democratic life, with political institutions that required participation and advocacy of one’s view in a pluralistic society to survive.
Douglas J. Slawson, The Foundation and First Decade of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University Press, 1992).
Elizabeth McKeown, “The ‘National Idea’ in the History of the American Episcopal Conference,” in Thomas J. Reese, S.J., Editor, Episcopal Conferences; Historical, Canonical & Theological Studies (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press).
Special Collections has shared the University’s treasures with many classes from many schools and departments over the years: History, Library Science, Religious Studies, Anthropology, and Education among them. While we often use our museum collection materials for instructional purposes, we were privileged with our first visit from a class in the Department of Art, Rome School of Music, Drama and Art just this semester.
Professor Tiffany Hunt brought students from her course, ART 272: The Cosmopolitan Renaissance, to Special Collections this month to explore pieces dating from the 1400-1600 period. Because many of the University’s works of art hang in the classrooms, offices, and corridors of the school, this archival visit was actually a campus tour. Professor Hunt’s goal was to have students embark “on an object-based art history research project that begins with a deep engagement, slow looking, and critical analysis of 11 art objects from the early modern period (1300-1600).”
The University’s museum collection, from which the pieces were drawn, is comprised of more than 5,000 objects, with the first donations of museum items dating to before the school opened in 1889. Up until 1905 the collection was displayed in Caldwell Hall. Starting in 1905 and continuing until 1976 parts of the collection were either displayed in McMahon Hall or Mullen Library, or were put into storage. In 1976 the university museum collection was put under the management of the archives and the collection was housed in Curley Hall vault, with items being used in campus exhibition or loaned to campus offices to be displayed and enjoyed as office decoration. The students in ART 272 focused on objects currently housed in Special Collections repositories, the archives’ reading room, Curley Hall, Salve Regina Hall, and Nugent Hall.
Catherine Coyle, one of ART 272’s students, notes that “the pieces I saw in the collection helped to illustrate the theme of connectivity of objects and styles that we have been discussing in the course.” Underscoring the “cosmopolitan” aspect of the course, Coyle notes that “all of the objects in the collection are connected to the era of the Renaissance in Italy, but they also visualize the movement of influences across the Mediterranean and even the East. The experience of having the ability to see these connections firsthand through the objects gave me the opportunity to fully see how expansive the Renaissance was.”
Some students were surprised at the scope of the objects in the University’s collections. Annaliese Haman observed that “the furniture pieces surprised me. I knew that furniture had much to say about the time it was created as well as the materials available, but after the brief discussion and visit to the Archives, I was more intrigued by furniture and its uses for research and for its uses during the Renaissance.”
Haman chose a painting of the Madonna and Child hanging in Salve Regina Hall for her deep analysis. Why that particular painting? I asked her. “it was close to my dorm,” she wrote,”and I wanted to research a painting. Because this piece is located in Salve Regina, I can go and view it on a frequent basis which was wonderful to be able to do. After I learned St. Genesius was pictured in the piece, I got very excited, as I have a special devotion to him.”
In fact, Haman recounts some of the painting’s colorful history, including a connection to the psychic, astrologer, and Washington, D.C. resident, Jeanne Dixon (1904-1997). You can read more about the ART 272 students’ adventures with their various works on Professor Hunt’s course website here: https://hunttl.wixsite.com/website. Additionally, we will publish selected works by the students here at The Archivist’s Nook in the coming weeks.
In January, 2000, the U.S. Department of Labor held a ceremony in Washington, D.C. to honor Terence Vincent Powderly (1849-1924), the 1999 Labor Hall of Fame inductee. He joined fellow Hall-of-Famers such as rival Samuel Gompers, friend Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, and fellow Pennsylvanian and labor leader Philip Murray. The Labor Department Report announcing the honor referred to Powderly as a “little known leader,” then went on to delineate his accomplishments. Powderly himself might have been a little offended at the reference to his obscurity, and not without cause. He was an extremely popular leader in his time. People wrote celebratory songs and poems about him and hung his portrait in their homes. He was often greeted with cheers and celebration in his extensive travels promoting the Knights. William Mullen, a Knights leader and organizer in Richmond, Virginia, named his son Terence Powderly Mullen when the boy was born in 1885. With many, many friends in the labor movement, and as a committed leader who cared about individuals ruthlessly exploited by corporate power, Powderly can be understood as a representative of the collective will of late-nineteenth century labor. We have selected objects from his voluminous collection, housed at the University’s Archives, for a display open to the public in the Archives’ Reading Room on the centenary of the penning of his autobiography, The Path I Trod.
Powderly’s massive popularity in the late nineteenth century was not necessarily foretold by his humble beginnings, though his personal story lent to his credibility among labor’s rank and file. He himself thought his story was worth telling enough to labor over it. Quoting Benvenuto Cellini that one who had “done anything of excellence” ought to “describe their life with their own hand,” (The Path I Trod, 3) Powderly set out to describe what he saw as the major events of his life: his youth in Pennsylvania’s coal country, early interest in labor unionization, years as the Mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania, involvement in American politics, and civil service as U.S. Commissioner General of Immigration.
Young Terence’s parents came to the United States from Ireland in 1827 for the same reason thousands of other Irish did: to seek the opportunity to work and raise a family outside of the oppressive conditions of British-ruled Ireland. Terence was born in what would become Carbondale, Pennsylvania, on January 22, 1849. Anthracite coal had just been found in the area, heralding the industrial growth of the Scranton region as a coal- and iron-mining center. The rail industry, a fascination for Powderly as well as a source of early employment, developed concomitantly in the area during his youth.
Powderly describes his childhood home as cold and drafty, with “no lathes, no plaster, and when the wind blew the house would rock as well as the cradle.”(8) The eleventh of twelve children, young Terence served as “the coal-breaker of the family at a time when coal was delivered “in lumps just as it came from the mine, few of them smaller than one’s head.” (14) He also helped his mother maintain the house, cleaning, cooking, and churning butter, according to his account, as a boy. At thirteen, Terence went to work as a switch operator for the railroad, eventually apprenticing as a machinist with James Dickson at age 17.
Working conditions in the age of burgeoning industry caused many workers to join labor unions, and Powderly was one of them—he joined the local Scranton unit of the Machinists and Blacksmiths International Union in 1871, soon becoming its secretary, then president. Shortly after marrying Hannah Dever in 1872, he was fired from his job as a mechanic for his union work and “walked the [railroad] ties” into upstate New York and Canada looking for work. (26)
Rather than back away from his labor activism, however, Powderly leaned into it further. He gave speeches on the importance of unionization. He wrote articles for trade journals and newspapers. He also studied and practiced law, which certainly strengthened his mediation skills (and helped pay the bills). In 1874 he was elected a union delegate for several districts in Pennsylvania. Unknown to Powderly, the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor was founded by Uriah Stephens and a group of tailors in Philadelphia in 1869. “While the Knights of Labor were secretly working their way to light and a world’s recognition,” he notes, “I had never heard of that order.” (42) The order maintained secrecy to protect its members from employer retaliation.
Later that year, however, Powderly attended an anti-monopoly convention in Philadelphia and was invited to join the Knights, though he wasn’t initiated until September 1876. After that, “I knew no waking hour that I did not devote, in whole or part, to the upbuilding of the Order.”(45) Powderly’s work resulted in his being elevated to the organization’s General Master Workman (the union’s highest office) in 1879.
The Knights’ approach to generating change was both local and national. Between 1869 and 1896 the order found its way into every state, comprising 15,000 Local Assemblies with over 700,000 members by 1886. The Knights found community, solace, and valuable information in their local meetings throughout the country. Local Knights organized and sponsored lectures and study clubs that were aimed at educating workers in economic principles. Women and Black Americans also had their own units, though the order specifically discriminated against Chinese laborers.
The Knights, however, declined in power by the late 1880s. A strike they led in 1886, the Great Southwest railroad strike, was unsuccessful, causing a decline in membership. The Knights suffered another blow that same year when they were associated with the tragic Haymarket Affair, a bombing in Chicago that took place during a worker’s rally in the city’s Haymarket Square. Finally, the founding of the American Federation of Labor by Samuel Gompers in 1886, drew skilled workers into its ranks, and away from the Knights. By 1889 Knights of Labor membership had dwindled to 120,000. Powderly resigned as Master in 1893.
Powderly was elected Mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania on the Greenback-Labor Party ticket for three two-year terms from 1878-1884. That he was still under 30 years old when first elected is a testament to his political skill. Though known primarily as a labor leader, politics came with the territory, especially in the politically and economically tumultuous years of the second industrial revolution. After he left his leadership position with the Knights of Labor in 1893, he became more involved in local, and eventually, national politics. He first met William McKinley in 1881 during a coal miners’ dispute in Ohio. McKinley, a lawyer, took up the case for miners accused of unlawful assembly without payment, as the miners couldn’t pay for counsel. This earned McKinley Powderly’s lasting admiration, and the two became good friends. McKinley was a Congressman from Ohio at the time, but would serve as U.S. President from 1897 until his assassination in 1901. Powderly describes him as “a man who had a heart that felt for others’ woes; he was unpretentious, unassuming, and kind.” (296) The Powderly papers contain numerous tokens of Powderly’s support and affection for McKinley. McKinley, for his part, appointed Powderly Commissioner General of Immigration in 1897.
Ellis Island was the main port of entry during Powderly’s term as Commissioner. Arriving at the immigration station, however, he saw “that all was not well… ill treatment of arriving aliens, impositions practiced on steamship companies, and discourtesy to those who called their meet their friends on landing were frequent.” (299) Powderly created a commission to investigate conditions at Ellis Island that resulted in charges of corruption and nearly a dozen firings. Powderly himself lost his position when McKinley was assassinated in 1901, though he was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt Special Immigration Inspector in 1906. This position entailed travel to Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, and Austria-Hungary to study the causes of immigration. An avid amateur photographer, Powderly took copious photos as he traveled, some of which are digitized and can be viewed here.
Powderly’s final position, 1921-1924, was as Commissioner of Conciliation of the U.S. Labor Department under James J. Davis (1873-1947), who served as U.S. Secretary of Labor, 1921-1930, under Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. Powderly died in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 1924.
The exhibit on Terence Powderly featuring the objects pictured here, along with many others from the collection can be viewed by the public in the Archives’ Reading Room in 101 Aquinas Hall.
References: Terence Powderly, The Path I Trod (New York: Columbia University Press, 1940)
If you were around during the Golden Age of Hollywood, you would have heard of Mercedes McCambridge. She had an Oscar winning role as Best Supporting Actress in the 1949 movie All the King’s Men. She was nominated for the same award in the 1956 film Giant. If you haven’t seen either of those classics or are more into horror, you might have heard her voice the demon Pazuzu in the 1973 film classic, The Exorcist. Indeed, she was renowned for her voice. Orson Welles, who, incidentally, addressed Catholic University’s first class of drama students in 1939, called her “the world’s greatest living radio actress.”
McCambridge was also an artist-in-residence here at Catholic University from 1972-1973, lured, no doubt, by the University’s stellar drama program and its illustrious head, Father Gilbert Hartke (1907-1986). McCambridge once commented on Father Hartke’s sartorial tastes, which extended well beyond the Dominican robes of his order to include a silk Nehru jacket, a six foot long aviator scarf, a Russian fur hat and light blue canvas sneakers, among many other articles of clothing.
Most of these articles were gifts given to him by those who knew he loved clothing and costumes. And were it not for his extravagant tastes, we perhaps might not today have an absolutely precious piece of cinematic history: one of the dresses Judy Garland wore on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Articles in The Tower and The Washington Post allude to it, and rumors have swirled for years that Hartke had the dress, but it wasn’t until recently that Matt Ripa, Lecturer and Operations Coordinator at the Drama Department rediscovered it. I asked Mr. Ripa how he found the dress, and he responded that he too, “had heard rumors that Father Hartke was gifted Dorothy’s dress and that it was located somewhere in the building.” But “I could never get confirmation on exactly where it was located.” He explains:
I had looked in our archives, storage closets, etc. to no avail. I assumed it was a tall tale (of which many exist for Father Hartke). Our building is in the process of renovations and upgrades, so I was cleaning out my office to prepare. I noticed on top of the faculty mailboxes a trashbag and asked my co-worker to hand it to me. On the trashbag was a note for our former chair stating that he had found ‘this’ in his office and that he must have moved it when he moved out of the chair’s office… I was curious what was inside and opened the trashbag and inside was a shoebox and inside the shoe box was the dress!! I couldn’t believe it. My co-worker and I quickly grabbed some gloves and looked at the dress and took some pictures before putting it back in the box and heading over to the archives. I called one of our faculty members and former chair, who always told me the dress existed and that it was in the building to let her know that I had found it. Needless to say, I have found many interesting things in the Hartke during my time at CUA, but I think this one takes the cake.
As archivists, we were obliged to work on gaining additional documentation for this popular culture national treasure. Objects such as this one might be forged and passed off as authentic because of their cultural and monetary value. So how do we know the dress is the real thing? We do not yet know how Mercedes McCambridge got the dress, though we do know she was a Hollywood contemporary of Judy Garland’s and that they were supposedly friends. McCambridge was friends with many luminaries in the film and radio industry. Garland had died by the time the dress went from McCambridge to Father Hartke. Moreover, we have several photos of Father Hartke holding the dress, and the abovementioned articles from The Tower and The Washington Post referencing it. So the circumstantial evidence is strong.
Nonetheless, we reached out to experts in cultural memorabilia at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The Museum has several artifacts from the Wizard of Oz set, including a famous pair of Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers. Curator with the Division of Cultural and Community Life, Ryan Lintelman, an expert in the Museum’s Oz memorabilia, offered a wealth of information he’s gathered on the history of the film’s Dorothy dresses. There were several of them, though it appears that five, excluding the University’s dress, have been verified as probably authentic. All of the dresses have certain verifiable characteristics: a “secret pocket” on the right side of the pinafore skirt for Dorothy’s handkerchief, “Judy Garland” written by hand in a script specific to a single person who labeled all of the extant dresses in the same hand, for example. Apparently, the thin material of the blouse was prone to tearing when Garland took it off after filming, and a seamstress often repaired it before she donned it for the next shoot. The Hartke dress has all of these characteristics, including blouse tears where the pinafore straps sat on the shoulders.
Lintelman, along with his colleagues at the Museum, Dawn Wallace, Objects Conservator, and Sunae Park Evans, Senior Costume Conservator, paid us a visit to view the dress. Employees at the Museum are not authorized to authenticate objects like this one, but they suggested that the dress was consistent with the other objects from the film, and that the evidence around the dress was strong.
Dorothy’s Wizard of Oz dress, once the province of myth, is now a real object in the University’s Special Collections. We can now preserve it in proper storage in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. By the way, if any of you readers have your own story connected to this dress, drop us a line!
Mary Jo Santo Pietro, Father Hartke: His Life and Legacy (Washington, D.C. The Catholic University of America Press, 2002), 201.
“Father Hartke: Kudos from the President, A Look At the Past,” The Washington Post, May 17, 1975, B1. The article alludes to “the original gingham dress that Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz,” hanging in his closet.
McCambridge talks about her relationships with various Hollywood figures throughout her autobiography, and specifically mentions her residency at Catholic University in the early 1970s in her autobiography, The Quality of Mercy (New York: Times Books, 1981), see pages 107, 189 for mention of her year as artist-in-residence. See also, Richard Coe, “Backstage And Back In Town,” The Washington Post, September 9, 1972, C9.
In his landmark 1990 scholarly work, The History of Black Catholics in the United States, Cyprian Davis presents a deeply researched history of African American Catholics in the United States. He proved that, while Black Catholics seemed invisible across U.S. Catholic history, in fact, the American Church has never been exclusively a white and European one. In fact, as he writes, “the African presence has influenced the Catholic church in every period of its history.” He concludes that for “[t]oo long have black Catholics been anonymous. It is clear they can be identified, that their presence has made an impact, and that their contributions have made Catholicism a unique and stronger body.” In that spirit, we offer an overview of some of our richest materials related to the Black Catholic experience in the United States, including the papers of Father Cyprian Davis himself.
In 2015, Special Collections acquired the papers of Father Cyprian Davis. Davis, born Clarence John Davis (1930-2015) in Washington, D.C., was a historian and archivist. A convert to Catholicism in his teenage years, Davis expressed an early interest in the priesthood. He joined the seminary of St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana, where he became a novice in 1950, and took the monastic name Cyprian in 1951. Ordained a priest on May 3, 1956, Davis became the first African American to join the monastic community of St. Meinrad.
He began his academic career in 1948, studying at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. where he received a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1957. Davis then studied church history abroad at The Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, where he obtained a licentiate in 1963. He taught church history at St. Meinrad before returning to Louvain for his doctorate degree in 1977. Father Davis authored and co-authored several pioneering monographs, including Christ’s image in Black: The Black Catholic community before the Civil War and The History of Black Catholics in the United States. Davis’s papers include many unpublished manuscripts on Black history and Black Catholic history, as well as correspondence, academic papers, printed material, audiovisual records, ephemera, and a range of awards and honors. A finding aid for the Cyprian Davis papers can be found here.
For insights into how white Catholics sought to promote interracial activities within the Catholic Church in the first half of the twentieth century, researchers can consult the records of the Catholic Interracial Council of New York (CICNY). Father John LaFarge, S.J., founded the CICNY in 1934 to promote mutual understanding and social justice among Blacks and whites. The CICNY disseminated information and held meetings and conferences on Catholic teaching and race. Through the 1940s, the CICNY addressed issues such as the Scottsboro Boys’ case, lynching, communism, and efforts to open the defense industry to Black workers. They also regularly honored Catholic civil rights activists with a number of annual awards and celebrations, including the annual John A. Hoey Interracial Justice Award. The idea of interracial councils led to their formation in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. By 1954, 24 Catholic Interracial Councils had been created.
The CICNY continued well into the 1990s, but had declined markedly in activity and importance by the late 1970s. The Interracial Review, of full set of which can be found in the voluminous CICNY Records, one of its more important undertakings since its founding, ceased publication in 1966, although it was revived in a much less ambitious format in the 1970s. Several civil rights leaders, including A. Philip Randolph and Roy Wilkins, contributed to the journal. A finding aid for the CICNY can be found here.
Washington, D.C.- Related Collections
The Haynes-Lofton Family Papers are comprised of the personal papers of Catholic University of America alumna Euphemia Lofton Haynes, her husband Harold Appo Haynes, and their families. A native Washingtonian, Euphemia Lofton Haynes (1890-1980) received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Smith College in 1914, a Master’s in Education from the University of Chicago in 1930, and a Doctorate in Mathematics from Catholic University in 1943, making her the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in Mathematics in the United States. She taught in the public schools of Washington, D.C. for 47 years and was the first woman to chair the D.C. School Board. She figured prominently in the integration of both the D.C. public schools and the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women. The papers consist of correspondence, financial records, publications, speeches, reports, newspaper clippings, and photographs, and provide a record of her family, professional, and social life, including her involvement in education, civic affairs, real estate, and business matters in Washington. A finding aid for the Haynes-Lofton family papers can be found here.
Educator and activist Paul Philips Cooke (1917-2010), a member of Washington D.C.’s Sacred Heart parish, lived most of his long life in the District. After earning a Master’s in English Literature from The Catholic University of America in 1942, and a Doctorate in Education from Columbia University in 1947, Cooke taught and served as president of the District of Columbia Teachers College until 1974. He was an active member of the Catholic Interracial Council of the District of Columbia (CIC DC) for over 50 years. The collection includes correspondence, clippings, reports, meeting minutes, photos, pamphlets, and publications. A finding aid for the Paul Philips Cooke papers can be found here.
For more on African American life in Washington, D.C. in the second half of the twentieth century, researchers may also consult the Elliot Liebow Papers. Liebow (1925–1994) was an American anthropologist, best known for his 1967 book Tally’s Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men, a study of Black men in urban Washington, D.C. The book, based on his 1966 Catholic University of America Department of Anthropology doctoral dissertation “Behavior and Values of Streetcorner Negro Men” sold nearly a million copies, and though dated today in its methodology, was influential in its time. Beginning in 1990, he held the Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle Professorship at the National Catholic School for Social Service of the Catholic University of America. He died in 1994. Series 3 of the Liebow papers contains research material related to Tally’s Corner. Although some of the research material is subject to a 60-year restriction in order to protect the identities of the case study participants, the open material includes the original manuscript of Tally’s Corner, correspondence about the book, book reviews, and publicity material (e.g., ads and ephemera). A finding aid for the Liebow papers is currently underway and should be completed by early 2021. In the meantime, please contact the archives staff directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-319-5065 for more information.
Education Resource Websites
The Thomas Wyatt Turner and The Federated Colored Catholics website is one of our most well-used educational resources. The site revolves around Turner’s struggle to promote racial equality in the U.S. Catholic Church. In that struggle, we see how even people of good faith have often disagreed over the best strategies for winning the battle. Some have argued that African-Americans or other racial minorities have needed the chance to unite, gain power, and win respect from white majorities. Others have contended that convincing white, and indeed all Americans, to be colorblind—to not “see” race—has been the best plan. Such disagreements emerged among American Catholics in the 1920s and 1930s in debates between Dr. Thomas Wyatt Turner, an African-American layman, and Father John LaFarge, a white Jesuit and long time civil rights advocate.The Thomas Wyatt Turner and the Federated Colored Catholics website can be found here.
The Catholic Church, Bishops and Race in the Mid-Twentieth Century website features resources and documents related to the U.S. Catholic Bishops in the mid-twentieth century. While battles were waged against racist institutions in America in the decades prior, it was the 1940s–1960s that set the tone for the momentous changes in the history of African Americans. Often termed the “Second American Revolution,” the Civil Rights Movement of those decades sought the end of segregation across a wide swath of American society, including schools and other public organizations. The Catholic Church in the U.S. saw the struggle for equality within its own walls, and many church leaders were determined to not only free their institutions from segregation, but to work for its demise in the general population as well. While recognition of the Church’s work in civil rights has paled in comparison to the luminaries of the movement, several individuals and organizations made a mark nonetheless, overcoming resistance at times from within their own parishes and institutions.The website can be found here.
In the 1930s and 1940s, comic books were one of the most popular forms of entertainment among the nation’s youth, combining as they did narratives, graphics, and low prices. Concerned over the possibility of the effects of such entertainment on the moral character of young people, the Commission on American Citizenship at The Catholic University of America worked with George A. Pflaum of Dayton, Ohio, to publishing a bi-monthly comic book, the Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact for distribution in Catholic Parochial Schools starting in 1946. The Treasure Chest was intended as a remedy to the sensationalism of traditional comics: it contained educational features, narrated the lives of saints, and presented adventure stories featuring realistic characters with what were considered wholesome values, like patriotism, equality, faith, and anti-communism.
By the early 1960s, the Treasure Chest was at the height of its popularity. In 1964, Joe Sinnott, the illustrator of Marvel Comics’ “The Fantastic Four,” teamed up with writer Berry Reece to produce a story depicting a U.S. presidential election. It was set in the future: the presidential election was supposedly that of 1976, the year of the nation’s bicentennial. “Pettigrew for President” lasted for 10 issues, following the campaign trail of the fictional Tim Pettigrew from the announcement of his candidacy through the national convention of his party. The candidate’s face was carefully hidden in every panel, until the final page of the final issue of the story, when Pettigrew is finally revealed: the first Black candidate for president of the United States! This site reproduces the entire “Pettigrew for President” series in a digital format. It places this unique comic book story in the context of the 1960s civil rights movement, and provides background information on the creators of the series. The website can be found here.
Father John LaFarge, Jr., S.J., a founder of the Catholic Interracial Council of New York, was one of Catholic America’s leading intellects during the first half of the twentieth century. He wrote and edited for the Jesuit weekly, America, for 37 years, wrote and published hundreds of articles and eleven books, co-wrote an encyclical, Humani generis unitas at the request of Pope Pius XI, and worked relentlessly, if not always successfully, to improve the circumstances of African Americans within the Catholic Church.
Though LaFarge titled his 1954 autobiography after the Jesuit Rules, The Manner is Ordinary, his early life was anything but average. Born in 1880 in Newport, Rhode Island to the well-known nineteenth century painter John LaFarge, and Margaret Perry LaFarge, a descendant of Benjamin Franklin and Naval Commander Oliver Hazard Perry, LaFarge enjoyed a privileged boyhood. Though he decided to become a priest at 12 years of age, he attended public schools in Newport, and graduated from Harvard University in 1901. He revealed his desire to become a Jesuit just before his ordination at the Seminary at Innsbruck, Austria. During his Jesuit training, he spent time as a prison chaplain on Blackwell’s Island (Now called Roosevelt Island) in New York City. Of his experience there, he wrote, “Innsbruck and Woodstock [Seminary] were schools of knowledge, but Blackwell’s Island was a school of life and death.”
At Blackwell’s Island, he came into contact with large numbers of African American and impoverished people, and was impacted deeply enough by the experience to make civil rights the focus of his life’s work. His assignment to the Jesuit missions in St. Mary’s County in Southern Maryland from 1911-1926 saw his commitment to the African American Catholic population deepen, even as it became fraught with controversy.
In fact, the African American Catholic community in the United States was small in the early twentieth century, hovering around 200,000 from the late nineteenth century to the early 1930s. Additionally, as historian Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., recounts, that population suffered from a lack of representation by Blacks among bishops, priests, and both male and female religious. Though African Americans sought to enter the priesthood and religious orders, their numbers remained extremely low due to racism within the church. Davis notes that the Black Catholic laity sought to fill the vacuum of leadership within the church, with several Black Catholic lay congresses organized by Daniel Rudd in the late nineteenth century, and the Federated Colored Catholics (FCC) organized by Thomas Wyatt Turner in the twentieth century.
The leadership vacuum, however, would have a profound impact on how white priests like Father LaFarge interacted with the African American Catholics he sought to serve. LaFarge and Turner saw the role of black lay Catholics within the church differently. The FCC was founded in 1924 by Turner and several Black Catholic laymen who sought to address the absence of African-American clergy, the discriminatory practices of the Josephites and Catholic Universities, and the need for greater African-American representation on the boards of various Catholic welfare organizations. Father LaFarge served as an advisor to the group, but in the end they parted ways, as Turner sought educational equality among white and black Catholics within Catholic institutions, accepted lay organizations, and access to the priesthood. LaFarge, while denouncing racism and supporting a black Catholic apostolate, favored emphasis on integration and interracial cooperation.
LaFarge also served as chairman of the executive board for the Cardinal Gibbons Institute, a Catholic school established in southern Maryland in 1924 for African American students. While the school served as an early endeavor to address the educational inequities within the church, LaFarge clashed with the school’s principals, Victor and Constance Daniel, over many of the same issues with which he disagreed with Turner, and the school closed in 1933.
Such experiences nonetheless informed LaFarge’s next venture, the founding of the Catholic Interracial Council of New York (CICNY) in 1934. By this time, he was well known as an informed clerical voice on racial issues in the United States, having written many articles on the topic for America, where he had served as assistant editor since 1926. The CICNY functioned under the auspices of the Archdiocese of New York City. Catholic social teachings and American democracy formed its underlying principles. LaFarge served as the CICNY’s chaplain, primary theorist, and guiding light from its founding in 1934 until he retired in 1962. George Hunton, who had been the secretary of the executive council of the Cardinal Gibbons Institute, served as the CICNY’s executive-secretary from its founding in 1934 until 1962. Hunton oversaw the daily business in the CICNY offices and served as the editor for its monthly journal, Interracial Review. Hunton and LaFarge, who for almost 30 years were the prime movers and visible representatives of the CICNY, were joined by Gerard Carroll, long time chair of the CICNY Board of Directors, in making the CICNY a stable and active organization that, despite its regional name and jurisdiction, possessed a national reach and profile. From meetings, intercollegiate conferences, and the publications disseminated through the organization’s Interracial Review, the CICNY influenced progressive thinking on racial among Catholics, especially in the 1930s and 40s, and formed the underpinnings of Catholic approaches to the civil rights movement in the post-World War Two period.
 David Southern, John LaFarge and the Limits of Catholic Interracialism, 1911-1963 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press), 22-23; Robert Hecht, “John LaFarge,” in Michael Glazier and Thomas J. Shelley, eds., The Encyclopedia of American Catholic History (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1997), 790.
 Cyprian Davis, The History of Black Catholics in the United States (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1992. See also, Davis, “African American Catholics,” Glazier and Shelley, Encyclopedia of American Catholic History, 10.
Father Emil Kapaun, a military chaplain who died tragically as a prisoner of war in Korea in 1950, was known as “a shepherd in combat boots,” a perplexing phrase at first blush. How does one reconcile the image of the humble shepherd with that of a soldier in combat boots? Father Kapaun, who was declared a Servant of God in 1993 by Pope John Paul II, embodies both the fighter and the shepherd.
Born on April 20, 1916 to German and Bohemian Catholic parents just outside of Pilsen, Kansas, young Emil grew up laboring on the 160-acre farm where his family raised cows, chickens, pigs, and grew wheat and corn. Summers on the Kansas plains were sweltering hot, and winters, bitterly cold. Serving as an altar boy at Pilsen’s St. John Nepomucene Church, young Emil was influenced in his Catholic faith by the church’s pastor, Father John Sklenar. Witnessing the fervency of his faith as a boy, Father Sklenar, along with his parents, Bessie and Enos Kapaun, apparently marked Kapaun as a priest from a young age. Though young Emil began high school and college at Conception Abbey in northwest Missouri when he was 14, he returned home in the summers to work the fields with his father, brother, and members of the Pilsen farming community. His concentration on his studies was intense, and he did so well in his classes that he was known by his schoolmates as “the Brain.”
After completing his training at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri in 1940, Kapaun was ordained a diocesan priest and assigned to the parish in which he’d grown up. But he had a taste for studying military and political affairs in Europe and elsewhere, writing to his brother Eugene about conflict in Europe throughout his time in the seminary. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he witnessed men his own age leaving Pilsen for service and notified his Wichita diocese bishop, Christian Herman Winkelmann, that he felt called to work as a military chaplain. The bishop refused, however, instructing him to remain as Assistant to Father Sklenar at St. John Nepomucene. He followed the events of the war, writing about them in his diary, noting the call for chaplains. He began volunteering part time at the military airfield at nearby Herington, Kansas, and wrote letters to local soldiers. His letters, sermons, and talks to soldiers interwove faith and military service. To one group, his biographer William Maher notes, he preached, “…a Catholic soldier will have his heart set on obedience and faithfulness to duty to service of his country and through that service, to the honor and glory of God.”
Father Kapaun remained at the parish where he had grown up, but he didn’t feel comfortable replacing the priest who had been there more than 50 years, and to whose ways the parishioners had become accustomed. He again petitioned Bishop Winkelmann:
When I was ordained, I was determined to ‘spend myself’ for God. I was determined to do that cheerfully, no matter in what circumstances I would be placed or how hard a life I would be asked to lead. That is why I volunteered for the army and that is why today I would a thousand times rather be working deprived of all ordinary comforts, being a true ‘Father’ to all my people, than by living in a nice comfortable place with with my conscience telling me that I am an obstacle to many.
Bishop Winkelmann finally agreed to allow Father Kapaun to train for a military chaplaincy. Kapaun began his military career in August, 1944 in a class of 145 chaplains. In addition to rigorous physical training involving long marches and calisthenics, Kapaun studied chemical warfare and military sanitation. He enjoyed military life, writing to a friend, “They want to toughen us up in a hurry and I really enjoy it.” Among other things, he learned that he had to promote the religious life of everyone in his unit (no matter the faith tradition), travel from outpost to outpost among scattered troops, and comfort the sick and wounded, all of these instructions he put to use not only during World War Two, but in the Korean War as well. He eventually ended up serving in the China-India-Burma theatre of war operations, also traveling to Bermuda, the Azores, Casablanca, Tripoli, and New Delhi, celebrating mass and ministering to soldiers, refugees, and civilians during this time.
After receiving orders to return to the U.S. in April, 1946, Kapaun conferred with his bishop on furthering his education. He began studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. in 1946. A master’s degree in education from the University would qualify him to teach at both Catholic and public schools in Kansas.
But alas, the military life still called him. He wrote his bishop in 1948 that “I believe I should offer myself for work in the Armed Forces, especially in this crisis.” The crisis to which he referred was the uptick in tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union over land access to West Berlin. The U.S. responded to the Soviet blockage of the city with its “Berlin Airlift” of supplies to the citizens of the former German capital. He reentered military service in 1948, and after a period of service in U.S.-occupied Japan in 1950, he was assigned to duty as chaplain of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment early in the Korean War. As chaplain, he ministered to the dead, heard confessions, and celebrated mass using the hood of a jeep as an altar.
Kapaun saved 15 soldiers by dragging them to safety during the Battle of Unsan in November, 1950. He was captured by Chinese soldiers on November 2, 1950, and sent to a prison camp, where he died from illness and malnutrition. For his service and bravery, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama in 2013 (the 60th anniversary of the end of Korean War). In 1993, Pope John Paul II made Father Kapaun a servant of God, the first stage on the path to canonization.
Special Collections has thousands of free online digital objects for use in your virtual classrooms.
Our digital materials are organized by type:
Digital Collections. A digital collection is a set of digital objects with minimal supporting information. These are either entire collections, or parts of collections that have been digitized and posted on our site with basic descriptive information such as collection description, title, date, and subject of object. We have 39 collections online, with materials ranging from Catholic University’s yearbook, The Cardinal, to The Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact Catholic comic book.
Digital Exhibits. Digital Exhibits are selections of digitized materials curated by Archives staff. Our trained staff, in addition to guests from various University departments, have curated several online digital exhibits for public use. These range from historical tours of the University campus to selections from our collections related to Irish nationalism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Rare Books. The holdings of the Rare Books Collection, some 70,000 volumes, range from medieval documents to first editions of twentieth-century books. We certainly don’t have all of these materials digitized, but you can find some of the rare books collection online.
Special Collections also has a limited capacity to digitize on demand, and we may have digitized materials available, though not yet online. Please contact Maria Mazzenga, email@example.com, if you have a request for a specific set of digital materials for use in your classes. Special collections staff are available for virtual assistance, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your requests.
An Apostleship of the Laity: The St. Vincent de Paul Society
Later this month, a mosaic of Blessed Antoine Frédéric Ozanam will be dedicated in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here in Washington, D.C. At that time, members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul will gather in celebration of their 175th year of existence. Though the Society’s name comes from their patron Saint, Vincent de Paul, a seventeenth century servant of the poor, Ozanam was the chief force behind the establishment of the organization in Paris, France, in 1833. As such, the Society became a member of the Vincentian Family, a group of Catholic organizations that includes the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
Ozanam took his Catholic teaching seriously. A scholar of Catholic social doctrine, he was once accused of being all talk and no action. His response was to found a group of men whose goal was direct service to the impoverished of Paris. Soon after the founding, the members carried food and other necessities directly to the homes of the poor. Key to the Society’s identity is the “apostleship of the laity,” hence members were parish based and comprised of lay members who ministered to their own communities. Their 1834 annual report noted that:
We understand very well that charity must be done in secret, that the work must be unobtrusive. Here we are not strangers to one another; what we have done has been accomplished with the cooperation of one another. The principal end of our association is to do everything with one heart and one soul, of a sort that we recount to one another the different services we have delivered not to be adulated but to give advice and mutual encouragement, to give better service.
Reflecting the necessity for such services, particularly in a rapidly industrializing world, the Society expanded rapidly outside of France. When Bishop John Timon of Buffalo, serving in St. Louis at the time, visited France and saw the work of the Society, he went about establishing the group’s first conference in St. Louis, Missouri in 1845.
The Society’s rule called for “visiting the poor in their dwellings” and the distribution of “moral and religious books” especially to children, but in the United States, these activities expanded from activities like supplying food to needy families and distributing rosary beads to running thrift shops, day nurseries, and youth camps, visiting nursing homes, among other activities.
The National Council in the United States began sponsoring foreign Councils in third world countries with its twinning program during the 1970s-1990s. Long-serving executive secretary Dudley Baker served thirty years, from 1955-1985, and helped establish many modern charitable organizations. Baker not only aided several presidents during his tenure, but also helped to modernize the society in America. Though the society in America has focused on disaster relief throughout its history, a greater emphasis has been placed on this recently, especially through the training of Rev. Ronald Ramson and the National Council’s Charity Seminars.
The Society is organized into five levels. The first level is the International Council in Paris, France that oversees the organization throughout the world. The second level is the National Council, which oversees each individual country’s society. The third level is the Diocesan Councils, of which there are 51 in the United States that oversee individual Councils in the society. The fourth level is the District council which oversees all the individual conferences throughout the United States. Lastly, at the fifth level are the conferences, based on the parish level. Headquartered in St. Louis, the Society has nearly 100,000 members in the U.S., and more than 800,000 members worldwide.
The Society’s records offer an extensive collection of organizational files, but includes also publications and audio-visual equipment from the society. Among the files are organizational correspondence, records from executive meetings, yearly reports and bulletins, membership files for the society and regional files from different councils, and financial files for the Society’s thrift stores. Many of these materials date back to the beginning of the Society in the United States. Also, there are videotapes and audiotapes of society meetings.
See the finding aid for the records of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul here
For blogposts on other Catholic charitable activities, see these posts on Monsignor John O’Grady, pioneer in Catholic charity: https://www.lib.cua.edu/wordpress/newsevents/9465/ and https://www.lib.cua.edu/wordpress/newsevents/9315/ as well as this post on the history of the National Catholic School of Social Work at The Catholic University of America: https://www.lib.cua.edu/wordpress/newsevents/10957/
 Raymond Sickinger, Antoine Frédéric Ozanam (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2017), chapter 3, “The Society of St. Vincent de Paul,” 61-62.
 The Encyclopedia of American Catholic History, Michael Glazier and Thomas Shelley, eds. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1997) p. 1249-1251.: